Sun and Rain and Dumb Luck

Emery Damson traversed Waverly’s town square like a oafish Barney Fife, making him pretty hard to miss. At adolescence he shot up to six feet overnight–fate bracing the house to make up for an empty attic. His height produced a Slinky-toy stride, pulling a stretch and reforming itself with the aid of gravity and momentum. Overlong arms bobbed at his sides, peppy pistons propelling him to his destination all the quicker–not that anyone expected the nomad needed to expeditiously be anywhere, not that many pistons were firing under the hood.

His neighbor, Daphne, helped with groceries and cleaning and seeing to things he didn’t fully comprehend. Emery liked Daphne, she smelled as pretty as the daisies she put in a blue Ball jar on the eating table. And the flowers smelled like his dad’s garden. Nearly everybody in Waverly put a garden in–beans, sweet corn, and spuds were Emery’s favorites. Daddy Damson showed him how to turn the spuds out with a hoe, back before God called him to heaven to keep company with Emery’s mom. “Nature isn’t a perfect thing,” his dad once said with an upside down smile, then added the only wisdom he knew, “it relies on luck, sun and rain and dumb luck.”

“Where’s the luck?” Emery was a milk mug eager for fill that could only capture small portions. The heaping majority of knowing slid over the sides like a slab of melted butter atop a boiled Yukon Gold.

By mid afternoon Emery had made his Waverly rounds: said heys and hellos to farmers loitering in the Post Office lobby; petted calico kitties behind the diner; watched Sonneborn trucks unload grain until a droopy, yellow pyramid formed. His shirt stuck sweaty to his back but he didn’t mind. Daphne made his shirts clean and the sun made the garden grow. And Hank Miller’s garden grew best, since Emery’s dad was tending God’s vegetables now.

He saved Hank’s place for last because it was special and because Hank lived down a wiggly path with silly squirrels and chirpy birds and racing rabbits. Emery said, “Hi, squirrels and birds and rabbits.” The birds always answered back, flying toward him instead of darting away. Emery sang the last few yards as he walked. “Old McDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o.”

“You back again?” On all fours, looking like a goat about to headbutt, Hank fought a jimsonweed sprout. “Dang, Emery, you’re as persistent as Peter Rabbit.” The weed broke off beneath the ground with a snap and gave way, splattering dirt balls across Hank’s coveralls. He sat back on his heels to inspect for pests between the prickly fronds.

“Peter Rabbit.” Emery laughed and knelt to feel the potato leaves, inhale the soil. “Good one, Hank.” His head waggled a half-circle, checking out his surroundings like a newborn pup. “Corn’s tall.”

“Yep, knee high by the fourth of July.” Hank crawled a foot forward, pushed a spade into the ground and twisted another weed loose. “Tell me, Emery, what do you do when you aren’t bunny hopping around my patch?”

Emery bounded over the next row and lassoed a dandelion by its meaty neck. “I look for luck.”

A dragonfly wizzed between them. “Do you ever find any?”

Emery pondered the question, face puckered with the effort, then hunched over the noxious interloper strangled between his fingers. Hank stabbed the earth again.

Straining for all his might against one of the toughest obstacles inflicted on mankind, Emery grunted and tugged. “I find the best kind . . . dumb luck.”

by Wanda Morrow-Clevenger

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